Monday, December 15, 2008

Non-profit of the Month: December 2008 - Living Water International

At youth group, we saw a video produced by Advent Conspiracy which is embedded above.

Definitely have been thinking about spending a little less for Christmas because of the current economic uncertainties. And after the video, what's really important is the people in our lives. And after watching the video, am going to be giving to Living Water International.

Here in the USA, we drink bottled water, fizzy water, water from the Brita filter, water from various home filter systems and water from the tap. We think nothing of it. Elsewhere, people get sick and die from the water.

Give money, get clean water, save lives.

How about it?

Here is the "about us" page at LWI.
Our Mission:
Living Water International exists to demonstrate the love of God by helping communities acquire desperately needed clean water, and to experience "living water" - the gospel of Jesus Christ - which alone satisfies the deepest thirst.

LWI is a leading implementer of participatory, community-based water solutions in developing nations. In its 16-year history, LWI has completed nearly 6,500 community water projects in 25 countries, which provide safe, clean water to 9.5 million people every day.

It all began in 1990, when a group from Houston, Texas traveled to Kenya and saw the desperate need for clean drinking water. They returned to Houston and founded a 501(c)3 non-profit. The fledgling organization equipped and trained a team of Kenyan drillers, and LWI Kenya began operations the next year under the direction of a national board.
Please give to this organization or other organizations doing similar kind of work.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sports: An NCAA Football Playoff Scenario

ESPN has placed on the web a playoff simulator.


Here is what I plugged in ...

And this is what the simulator produced ...

Life: Don't eat left over food that has sat in the car for more than one hour on a hot day

Since I'm in a confessional mood having acknowledged I was duped by free credit I have to confess a really stupid thing I did that landed me in the hospital.

Southern California weather can be hot and it was recently and I had left over food in my car. Well, I ate it later on and in a matter of hours I was experiencing extreme abdominal cramps. I was balled up like a shrimp on the bathroom floor waiting to either vomit or have diarrhea. After 90 minutes of this, I realized this was NOT good and called my brother to take me to the hospital. Alas, this was 2:30AM Monday morning a few weeks back.

My wonderful brother and sister-in-law came to get me and managed to drag me into the car as I was in so much pain I could barely walk. We drove to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center emergency room where I went in 2004 and 2005 for a bowel obstruction. In 2004, I had surgery for it. In 2005, the MDs decided to see if it would resolve without surgery.

Given my medical history, they were on the lookout for the obstruction. There is little to no dignity in the hospital and when you are sick you really don't care. I can't remember when (4:30 or 5 AM?), but I had 3 bloody diarrhea episodes. From the blood tests and the CAT scan, they concluded I had inflammation of the descending colon. I was admitted into the hospital and was feed by IV to rehydrate me from all the fluid I lost from the diarrheas. On Tuesday, they decided to add IV Flagyl and Levaquin. They cut me loose on Thursday with a prescription for 4 more days of the antibiotics but in tablet form.

My digestive system is still kind of jumpy these days but that is to be expected given the trauma to the colon and the after effects of 7 days of double antibiotic treatment. Key thing I was told to watch for was any bloody stools or off the charts abdominal cramps.

The GI MD thinks it was probably just a very bad case of food poisoning but has scheduled me for a colonoscopy for 2009 to see what is inside my lower GI. The concern is that there is some other issue going on. They aren't likely given my fairly speedy recovery from the episode but they want to check it out nonetheless. Current recommendation is a colonoscopy at age 50 if there isn't a reason to look sooner. So in my case, they felt it was time to look. The list of things they are looking for and hope NOT to find is pretty long.

2009 ... colonoscopy blogging? Ick!

Business: FreeCreditReport.Com is not free

We have all seen the ads on TV or heard them on the radio for FreeCreditReport.Com.

Well, I tried it and indeed got my credit report. What I didn't realize but now looking back, there was "fine print" everywhere that it wasn't really free.

Right there on their home page is this:
When you order your free report here, you will begin your free trial membership in Triple AdvantageSM Credit Monitoring. If you don't cancel your membership within the 7-day trial period**, you will be billed $14.95 for each month that you continue your membership.
I noticed the other day a $14.95 charge by "#CIC*TRIPLE ADVANTAGE" on my credit card and wondered what was that?

A quick search on the internet revealed that many people did what I did.

The articles described how people had a very hard time getting the service cancelled.

In my case, I've seen one billing but for others who don't check their statements carefully, they wind up paying for this service for several months without realizing it.

What is the definition of fraud?
Definition of Fraud

All multifarious means which human ingenuity can devise, and which are resorted to by one individual to get an advantage over another by false suggestions or suppression of the truth. It includes all surprises, tricks, cunning or dissembling, and any unfair way which another is cheated.

Source: Black’s Law Dictionary, 5th ed., by Henry Campbell Black, West Publishing Co., St. Paul, Minnesota, 1979.
Experian is the company behind FreeCreditReport.Com and what they are doing is on the edge of fraud. They will always say that disclaimers are on the web site so they aren't being dishonest. But that truth is hidden amidst a cute radio and TV ad campaign scaring people about surprises in your credit score all the while calling their service FREE credit ... does this skate right up to the edge of the line of "false suggestions or suppression of the truth?"

What do you think?

Today, I hope to NOT have to spend too much time on the phone calling Experian to cancel the service. I'll also be calling the credit card company to say I have cancelled the service and no more of these charges should appear on my card.

I feel like such a dope!

8:20 made call to the and on hold
8:23 got live person, Z, who looked up my file
8:24 Z reads script to keep me as a customer
8:25 Z offers a limited membership for $4.95/month
8:26 puts me on hold to cancel my membership
8:28 back on the line and am told I will receive an email that confirms cancelation of my membership.

8:29 calling Bank America Visa credit card company and going through the various voice menus
8:31 got live human and explained the situation and was given a number to call if the charge reappears. While logging my complaint in the computer, rep offers a credit card balance tranfer which I decline
8:34 my concerns about Triple Advantage Credit Monitoring are logged in and the call ends.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Culture: the things you can see on Youtube - mouse obstacle course!

The music is the Wide World of Sports Fanfare (I think?) followed by the Olympics Fanfare by John Williams!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Music: Freeway Philharmonic

Just saw a delightful and moving documentary, Freeway Philharmonic, about freelance classical musicians.

The film follows 7 musicians in their lives in and out of music.

Its a tough way to make a living but their passion for music compels them to be on the road stitching together playing and teaching gigs all over California.

As a orchestra concert goer, the film gave me a greater appreciation for the craft and the commitment they have.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Life: Private Monica Brown Saving

Heard on the radio the story of Army Medic Monica Brown and her actions to help save two soldiers after their convey was ambushed in remote Afghanistan. Below is the video clip of the 60 Minutes feature story about Private Brown.

Watch CBS Videos Online

Friday, December 05, 2008

Technology: AOL Hometown has been shut down

I signed onto AOL back in 1994 and hosted my 1993 and 1997 road trips on their FTP space. I recently discovered the pages were gone!

Some searching uncovered this message:
Hometown Has Been Shutdown

Posted on Nov 6th 2008 1:30PM by Kelly Wilson

Dear AOL Hometown user,

We're sorry to inform you that as of Oct. 31, 2008, AOL® Hometown was shut down permanently. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.


The AOL Hometown Team
More web searching revealed many irrate AOL Hometown users and various reports of attempts to recover the pages.

At the moment, I'm attempting to off-load my photos and html scripts by FTP.

Connect to the server With your FTP program enter your user name and password. Off-load your files.

I'm finding the process to be extremely slow. I'm not sure if it is the FTP program I'm using or the bandwidth to the ftp servers at AOL are just slow.

Another option I found by web surfing is to use Way Back Machine. I was able to recover my HTML scripts but very few of my photos.

All the best to fellow AOL Hometown users in recovering your pages.

Technology is a tough business. AOL was once the king of the hill. Now, it is probably on its last legs. Don't think AOL execs will be going to Capitol Hill for a bail out!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Faith: Viral Christianity?

Image from:

As one of the Fan lab alumni, I think about viruses and how they do what they do. It is that kind of function and structure process thinking that I learned in graduate school that I carry into my continuing life as a medical researcher now studying vitamin D.

As a Jesus follower, I am drawn to the metaphor that it may offer: what viral - minimal - Christianity might look like?

Tim and I kicked around some ideas at the Fan lab reunion BBQ at the beach a while back. Since then, I've periodically let my mind wander at the possibilities of weaving "a story" using the simple retrovirus above as the hooks to hang the story.

Admittedly, analogies and metaphors do have limits but they can be helpful in stirring up thoughts.

And so here are some ideas to consider ...

From the diagram there are 5 components: RNA, gag, pol, env, lipid bilayer.

The RNA is the message. The very core of the virus. No RNA; no nothing. And so at the core of viral Christianity is the radical idea that God wants a relationship with us as individuals and as a community of faith. Think of John 3:16? I wonder how many people see that sign at a football game and know what the verse says? Well, hopefully, the viral Christian community lives in such a way that someone will grasp that wonderful message.

One of the genes coded in the RNA is gag. Gag is the protein that helps form the inner core structure of the virus. Ultimately, what separates Christianity from other world views, religious systems and organized communities is the person of Jesus. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus is what provides the shape of Christianity. Jesus teachings, moral example and righteous life must shape our communities if we claim him as Lord. Jesus and the Cross is the theological and existential focal point of grace, love, justice and forgiveness. His resurrection is the vindication of his mission and message and opens the door for us to have new life.

Another gene coded in the RNA is pol. Pol is the protein that replicates viral RNA and integrates the coded information into the host. Sounds very much like the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit embeds into us new coded information. This changes us. If Christianity has no capacity to change us and societies then what is it good for? And so the Spirit works to transform us and replicate this new genetic information in us.

The third gene coded in the RNA is env. Env protein pokes out of the particle and allows the particle to latch onto a cell. The particle gets into a cell because env acts as a key that opens the door to that cell. Thus, the particle of viral Christianity has love on its surface. It is love that catches people's attention. It is love that opens the door to their hearts. St. Paul said, if I have not love, I'm nothing; I'm just making noise. St. John tells us, we love because God first loved us.

The last item is the lipid bilayer. The "skin" of the viral particle is the host's lipid bilayer which is the "skin" of all our cells. And so the message of God, the core structure of Christ, the replicative and integrative power of the Spirit and the key of love is all wrapped up in human skin. Imagine that: something so valuable and beautiful and powerful wrapped up in us, in our communities of faith. Again, referencing St. Paul, treasures in jars of clay.

What do you think?